Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of July 19 , 2021


Entering Prayer

(Creating Our Soul: 7)

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Faith is more than just adopting the idea that there is a higher power, a creator behind and within this universe. Faith is the perception of that higher power. For most of us, that perception comes indirectly as an intuition. The deeper our engagement with spiritual inner work, the more direct and explicit that perception becomes. Indeed, a major aspect of spiritual practice concerns cleansing and opening our perceptions. If we consider belief to be the adoption of an idea of the higher, the difference between faith and belief becomes clearer. Whereas belief is primarily in the mind, faith arising from direct perception engages the whole of us.

Yes, there are doubts. But we do not need certainty to proceed wholeheartedly with spiritual practice. And as we proceed, faith does grow, while doubts diminish. If the doubts arise from the search for truth rather than from a cynical and self-preserving ego, they can play an important role in the growth of faith. Healthy doubts keep us humble and sane, they cause us to question ourselves, to distinguish between what we believe and what we perceive, and to clarify and verify the reality of our perceptions. Thus, doubts can enhance faith by driving us to examine ourselves and what is beyond us, directly and carefully.

Depending on the degree of our faith, we more or less "know" there is SomeOne to Whom we pray, when we do pray. We can also temporarily suspend our disbelief and doubts. Either way, prayer can enable much to happen in us. This depends on the wholeness, openness, and intensity of our prayer.

What can happen in prayer? When we come to prayer from a place of genuine need and sincerely ask for help, it can show us that such help, direct spiritual help, is real. That can deepen our faith, which in turn can deepen our ability and readiness to pray, creating a virtuous circle. This also validates our need, our understanding of our incompleteness, our understanding that we are driven by a false belief in our non-existent ego, the centerpiece of our personality. Prayer, along with the humility it requires and engenders, can help heal our divorce from the simple joy of direct contact with life, with other people, with ourselves, and with the sacred. Begging for help undercuts the great spiritual impediment of egoism.

Prayer helps us understand our place before the sacred. We cannot be active toward the higher, but the higher can act on us, especially if we allow that, make room for that. We sit in a silent, wordless prayer, aimed toward the sacred. Gradually we drop even that aim, leaving behind any vestige of an active attitude, any wish to shape our experience. Letting go of everything, even of our self, we become malleable in our core. "Not my will, but thine." We become available in that stillness, a stillness of body, heart, and mind, and even more fundamentally a stillness of will.

These are two great domains of prayer: asking the sacred for help and the silent meditation of non-doing. The third great domain of prayer consists of engaging with the set liturgy and rituals of a religion. We repeat the prescribed prayers, in the form and format of our religion. This may be communal worship or individual. Either way, there are levels. Do we merely say or think the words of the prayer? Do we also take them to heart, bringing devotion to the prayer? Do we bring the whole of ourselves, our entire one-pointed presence fully into the act of praying? Do we open to the spiritual depths as we pray, to the One to Whom we address our prayers, as if we were standing on sacred ground before the Divine? Do we allow the Divine to the be One Who is praying through us, as us?

What does prayer have to do with soul? One could say that the very purpose of developing and having a soul is to be able to pray with greater depth. Although in some forms of prayer we are asking for something, asking for help, prayer is essentially an act of giving from ourselves to the Divine, of giving ourselves to the Divine. We could say that this is why we are here. Depending on the level of our prayer, we transform and generate high qualities of energies useful to the sacred. Depending on the level of prayer, we open to reconnecting our will to the Divine will. Depending on the level of prayer, the Beneficent comes closer to us all. Prayer is a selfless act of service that transforms us and creates our soul.

For this week, please reinvigorate your engagement with prayer.


     

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